Great Books Study Pt. 2

In the previous post, I wrote about how I came to want to a Great Books Study with my kids. For this post, I want to explain how I want to carry it out. I should say right here that I am still not sure about everything. There are some areas of this study that will probably have to work itself out when we actually do it. I do know, though, how I want some of it to be carried out.

Because I have never taught a Great Books class before, I intend to rely heavily on The Well Trained Mind. If I do this with Tessa, things might look a lot different but for now I am depending on other people to tell me what to do.

The following explains what we will do with each Great Book. Susan Wise Bauer suggests before even reading the books to find out the context of which the book was written. To do this, we need a history timetable book to look up the time period in which the author lived and when the book was written. Emma will write some of the things that occurred at that time and make a context page.

Then Emma will read the book and this is where things get a little murky. I had intended to read the books out loud. My reason for this was two-fold: 1) there is a better chance for discussion to take place if we read it together and 2) I had hoped that for some of the books, the younger two would join us in our reading. I think there is a better chance for discussion when there is more than 2 people. But then I listened to a podcast by James Selby (author of the Classical Composition curriculum)(I tried to find the link for the talk but it has disappeared! I am disappointed because it was a great talk about studying the Great Books) and now I am wondering if reading out loud is the best way to go. Selby talks about how you can use the Great Books to produce a great reader. In his talk, he frequently refers to reading the Great Books as a skill. I have given this a lot of thought. My purpose in having Emma read these books is not necessarily to obtain skills but, rather, to contemplate and discuss the Great Ideas. So if that is my purpose, does it really matter if she reads the books on her own or not? That is the question that is rolling around in my head.

In Selby’s podcast, he also talks about writing a narration every day about the previous night’s reading. I like that but I just don’t know if we will have time for that. Hmmm, one more thing to ponder.

Okay, back to our Great Books rhythm.

So while reading the book, Emma will write notes about the book–her impressions of her reading. And this is where we enter the 2nd area of murkiness. I have read a few ways of making notes and I’m not sure which way is better for us. There is the marking up the book way with highlighters and writing in comments. My problem with this is that books are holy to me. You do not mark in them for whatever reason. Writing in books is as close to blasphemy as you can get. If we went this route it would mean that I would have to work through a 50 year long hang up (I don’t think we have time enough for that) plus we would have to purchase a second copy of each book. Again, I do no have the time to order each book nor do I have the money to buy each book. The other option is to write notes in a notebook. I’m not sure if I like that idea and I don’t even know why I don’t like that idea. I just know it does not sit well with me. That is my second thing to ponder.

Moving on.

While we are reading the book, we read from The Well Educated Mind in the according genre section. If we are reading a poem (like the Iliad) then we read the notes in the poetry section. If we are reading Antigone then we read the drama section in the book. Each section contains notes on that genre plus it has questions for the reader to answer.

During this reading, there will be discussion–at least that is what I am hoping (praying) for. To help with these discussions, I have a stellar arsenal of resources. See, I have been preparing for this moment for 7 years so I have had time to collect.

During our reading, we will also be watching/listening to some Teaching Company lectures. We have The Iliad, The Odyssey, Mythology and Famous Romans. I think that should do us good for this year.

So there you have it–The Plan. It looks so nice on paper, doesn’t it? I wish it would play out into reality just as nicely.

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3 Responses to Great Books Study Pt. 2

  1. Stacie says:

    I’m looking forward to hearing and reading more about how this adventure goes for you. And I’m moved to share my own experience with writing in books. I too found it very hard to do at first, but have shifted over the years … and I love it! It’s so much more efficient than writing lists of page references and referring back and forth to a notebook. I also find my reading and my thought trains can keep flowing more smoothly (less derailments!). Plus it’s fun to pick up the book and see easily which quotes and sections grabbed my attention (at the time and when I look back at a different stage of life). Good luck with it all!

    • Hey Stacie! Thanks for sharing your experience with writing in books. I can see where it is more efficient than writing notes in notebooks. I always seem to lose those notebooks anyway. I also read somewhere of a woman who inherited her grandmother’s books and they were all written in with her grandmother’s thoughts and reactions to the book. The woman thought of these books as such a treasure. I thought that was such a special gift to give to your children/grandchildren. That in and of itself may prompt me to start writing in books.

      • Stacie says:

        I love the idea of connecting with a mother or grandmother through their notes in books!

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